December 3rd, 2012

What sexy was like in the 50s

I found this video buried in an old comment, and I think it deserves a wider viewing. It’s of Gene Kelly and Tamara Toumanova dancing Kelly’s choreography in the movie “Invitation to the Dance,” which was made in 1952 but not released till four years later.

Toumanova was a ballet dancer and Kelly was–well, Gene Kelly. It’s all done without showing even a bit of lascivious skin from Toumanova (except her long, long, superlong legs). Not a single crotch is grabbed; no bumps are ground nor pelvises thrust, except just for a moment and in the most demure manner possible.

But both of the dancers are so hot they practically sizzle. Toumanova’s appeal lies not just in her dancing but in what she does with her face; watch her expression, especially during the cigarette lighting part.

Those cigarettes are one of the anomalies in this dance—you’d never see that today. But what you’d really never see is choreography that’s so sensual rather than overtly sexual.

And man, what great shoes she’s got on:

29 Responses to “What sexy was like in the 50s”

  1. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Absolutely brilliant and amazing.

    And that precise, yet effortless leap by Kelly at the beginning of their dance is an Oscar and Olympic caliber move.

    I was unaware of the movie and had never seen this scene before, thanks for bringing it to our attention.

  2. Paul Fricke Says:

    A Kelly dance I’d never seen – thank you!
    Your comments and Geoffrey’s are spot on.

  3. neo-neocon Says:

    Geoffrey Britain: yes, I’m in awe of that leap. Stupendous!

  4. George Pal Says:

    The ‘sexy’ of the ’50s is still sexy. What passes for sexy today is not an expression of sex but of organs.

  5. Tesh Says:

    The cigarettes kill it for me. Those nasty things are pretty much “antisexy” in my book.

    Still, I’ll take this over what passes for “sexy” these days.

  6. Mr. Frank Says:

    One of the sexiest movies ever was Casablanca and it has no sex.

  7. neo-neocon Says:

    Tesh: ah, but she throws the cigarettes away.

  8. ziontruth Says:

    George Pal,

    It’s strange to reflect on the way the 1950s are now the golden age of good taste in American conservative eyes, while this type of thing was enough to motivate an Egyptian student named Sayyid Qutb to institute the radical line from which Al-Qaeda is descended. (To be sure, Qutb was set against American culture even before he boarded the ship; he expected “evil” and therefore found it.)

    Also poignant is the way Barack’s grandparents (see here and here for Stanley and Madelyn Dunham) and Michelle’s parents (scroll down here for the picture of Fraser and Marian Robinson) have that classy 1950s look in their family photos from the era or thereabouts. Whatever was bad about America in the 1950s, the counterculture of the next decade—of which Barack Obama was a member—decided to throw the baby out with the bathwater (and that’s the most charitable way of looking at it). The legacy of the hippies won’t be racial harmony but a debasing of the American way of life as a whole.

    Theoretically it’s possible to restore the glory, the sweet song of the Chordettes singing “Mister Sandman” and that kind of wholesomeness. But the conniving dividers who insist this former good cannot be restored without also getting back to the “white supremacism” of the 1950s won’t let it happen. The arrival from there to here after fifty years is a reason to hate those commies with a burning passion if nothing else.

    What a difference wearing a skirt (midi or maxi) makes.

  9. Artfldgr Says:

    its just the difference between the vice of sipping brandy, and being a rat in a cage pressing the button to keep getting some fix of bob fosse….

    SF-Based Porn Company Offers Sex-Ed Classes With Live-Demonstrations

  10. George Pal Says:


    the conniving dividers who insist this former good cannot be restored without also getting back to the “white supremacism” of the 1950s won’t let it happen

    There’s no lack of intense hate I have for the conniving dividers for this very thing you mention. There is no good that an enlightened progressive will ever see in the past without condemning it as being a Siamese twin of some non-progressive ‘evil’.

    If it was luck, that my formative years were informed by the grace, talent, and sexy of the ’50s, then good for me. If it was Providence, then many thanks. I shudder to think what having the likes of Madonna and Lady Gaga impress the impressionable will lead to but I’m starting to get the picture.

  11. Artfldgr Says:

    Who thought that women were so hateful of their lives, their sexuality, being women, the world, their children, their husbands, periods, giving birth, the system, and more? That once that genie was uncorked they would facilitate their own self destruction, taking everyone else down with them… (except for the few who had more sense, but not enough sense to stop them).

    To the leaders what that woman dancing is doing is perpetuating the patriarchal stereotypes that have imprisoned women and forced them to dress pretty, and created the false affectation that makes them seem different and so subjugated by the male.

    Bottom line, women should have picked better leaders, and should have trusted family before strangers. heck, perhaps they should have actually looked to where the ring in the nose they got last xmas thanks to the po-mo culture, was leading them.

    you wont see that kind of dancing because women don’t want that anymore, they want high paying jobs, and high taxes, and aren’t afraid to vote for that!!!!! and de is smarter dan us. us men would never be so smart as to have affirmative action take the best jobs and highest salaries at the same time raise the tax rate to pay for everyone else… we iss dumb…

    that kind of sexuality and hot flame is not what you get when woman declares war on the other partner on that dance floor. its not what you get when laws favor one side so much, men kill over the outcome (and are demonized for it so that the skew is made even more punitive. hows that working).

    right now, you wont hear it from the ladies, who talk for men, but there is a reason that is not the pc reason given to you that men dont want to marry, dont want meaningful relationships, dont want to dance up close, be romantic and connect… [someone will pipe up to make sure that the conversation is never just about what its about]

    you really should put up photos of the women that have guided women in romance over the past 60 years… its really no wonder that their self hate and hate of women who dont look like them is what women in society feel for following such.

    those quotes matter even more now, given that they are changing valentines day into V-day… its in the colleges, so when its in society, then what? thats when you start talking?

    it gets rid of two things with one swipe. victory in europe and valentines day (religious parts), a heteronormative celebration of oppression

    V-Day (movement), the global movement to end violence against women and girls

    V-Day, February 14th, is a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls inspired by Eve Ensler’s play, The Vagina Monologues. The movement was started in 1998 by author, playwright and activist Eve Ensler. Ensler has been quoted as saying that it was women’s reactions to the play that launched V-Day. After seeing The Vagina Monologues, women would line up after to tell Eve their personal experiences, most often of sexual violence.

    n 2010, more than 5,400 V-Day events took place in over 1,500 locations in the U.S. and around the world. To date, the V-Day movement has raised over $80 million and educated millions about the issue of violence against women and the efforts to end it, crafted international educational, media and PSA campaigns, launched the Karama program in the Middle East, reopened shelters, and funded over 12,000 community-based anti-violence programs and safe houses in Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Kenya, South Dakota, Egypt and Iraq. The ‘V’ in V-Day stands for Victory, Valentine and Vagina.

    pish tosh, only 80 million?

    its real easy to see the difference between men and women and what is moral and valued… just look at the girl scouts and the boy scouts…

    to pine over what your contemporaries hate and dismantled is a comedic tragedy

    White Nights Baryshnikov (Vysotsky “Horses”)–LbFRO8SQQ

    All that was is gone now… including gene kelley
    a lot of the old movies are being remade, so you wont get to see the old ones any more. they even re-did rankin bass xmas stuff…

    that kind of romantic expressive dance and that, is DEAD..
    killed by… well, whether they admit to it or not, dont matter.
    its still dead anyway.

    it wont come back for the same reason that the culture its a part of is to be destroyed (just like a certain culture was to be destroyed back in europe by people that believed much the same politically, but had funky costumes)…. its men broken by the state for their mates, and society that was built around it, changed for a not so free one.

  12. NeoConScum Says:

    On a magical, sparkling night at the Universal Amphitheater sometime in ’74-’76 I got to watch Gene do ‘Singing in the Rain’ with the umbrella and drops…WHEW..! A high-rolling charity event mc’d by Sinatra and including Cary Grant. Ahhhhhh….

  13. RandomThoughts Says:

    There was so much going on in that dance, I found it absolutely riveting. Every little gesture, every movement carried meaning. I know that dancing at its best is storytelling, but I don’t think I ever paid as much attention to the story as I did while watching this dance.

    And Gene Kelly…one in a million, he was. Magical. NeoConScum I envy you that experience.

  14. Mac Says:

    ziontruth said: “The legacy of the hippies won’t be racial harmony but a debasing of the American way of life as a whole.”

    As a one-time hippie, I hate to admit it, but this is true. Moreoever, the hippies had nothing much to do with the end of racial segregation; the real movers in that phenomenon were older.

    Now, about that dance: wow. I was thinking some similar things about Astaire and Rogers recently when watching Swing Time. There is a lot of implied sensuality without overt sexuality in their dancing, but this is in a different realm, a realm with a much higher temperature. To tell the truth I’m slightly surprised that it was done in 1952. It’s really fairly risque for the time. Or for that matter for our time, for anyone not too jaded to feel it.

  15. chuck Says:

    I’ve been thinking about this myself because some of the books I read attempt sex scenes, and they are *boring*. It’s tough to write sexily about sex, the usual “lets slip a bit of hard core in here” doesn’t do it for me. It got me thinking, about goats (bang, bang, bye) and other things along that line, and I came to the conclusion that the act itself, while pleasurable, isn’t very sexy. It’s the pursuit, the tease, the mystery, the hidden, that is sexy.

  16. chuck Says:

    And here’s some sexy dancing sheep😉

  17. RandomThoughts Says:

    Chuck…that video… 0.o

    Ah, er, yes, I meant to comment on this: It’s the pursuit, the tease, the mystery, the hidden, that is sexy.

    Both women and men have known for eons that what is hinted at, alluded to, but not directly seen, is far more enticing than anything openly viewed.

    My inner geek is reminded of the Theiss Titillation Theory ( applied to just about every female guest star in Classic Star Trek episodes: “The sexiness of an outfit is directly proportional to the possibility that a vital piece of it might fall off.” It never does, but the male viewer keeps hoping.

  18. parker Says:

    Sexy is as sexy smells at least for me. Under the covers it is, for me, a matter of scent. I have long been captured by the scent of my sweet one. The scent from her skin, her armpits, and her nether regions have reeled me in hook, line and sinker. Perhaps, I am rather primitive, but I was enticed and subsequently held capture by her scent. Her ability to dance was not on my radar; although for amateur she dances rather well.

    Live for each second:

  19. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States Says:

    }}} Geoffrey Britain: yes, I’m in awe of that leap. Stupendous!

    Indeed. Along with the transition from crying to being on his knee, both incredibly smooth transitions.

    Kelly, btw, made “Xanadu” fairly good.

    I do take issue with your notion that there’s no grinding, it’s just done FAR less overtly. Specifically ca. 3:15.

    And the whole dance is a euphemism for sex with a prostitute, so it’s about doing things less openly, not about not doing them.

    You can make the case that it’s either cruder or less honest and/or mature — it depends largely on how you want to take it. I can see both sides/arguments as valid.

  20. Conrad Says:

    Thanks for posting this, Neo.

    First off, this clip serves as a reminder that Gene Kelly is near the top of the list of most talented people ever to grace Hollywood. Other names that come to mind are Chaplin and Judy Garland (who else belongs in this pantheon?).

    Second, although I’m not a huge fan of dance or musicals per se, it’s a shame that this whole genre has pretty much gone extinct. When the whole style of movies and acting lurched into “realism” (starting, I suppose, with John Cassavetes or French New Wave or something), it appparently spelled doom for musicals. These days we have a glut of serious actors who can convincingly portray people with disabilities, mental disorders, substance abuse issues, etc., but very few movie stars who can really exude glamour, wit, moxie, and sexiness the way they did back in the golden era of Hollywood. Where is today’s Ginger Rogers?

  21. neo-neocon Says:

    Conrad: well, apparently the movie (although not dance) musical still lives, although it’s a very, very different kind of movie musical. Not a whole lot of glamor here:

  22. neo-neocon Says:

    IGotBupkis: I didn’t say no grinding. I wrote, “no bumps are ground nor pelvises thrust, except just for a moment and in the most demure manner possible.

  23. Susanamantha Says:

    I think it was Cyd Charisse that said that one danced with Fred Astaire with her head and with Gene Kelly with her body.

  24. JuliB Says:

    Wow – I’ve never seen Gene Kelly dance before! Thanks for the experience, and I will be updating my netflix queu.

  25. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States Says:

    }}} IGotBupkis: I didn’t say no grinding. I wrote, “no bumps are ground nor pelvises thrust, except just for a moment and in the most demure manner possible.“

    LOL, you need to go back and watch that starting where I said. It’s a good 15-30 second grind, pelvis to pelvis. It’s subtle by modern standards but not by the standards of that era.

    I’d bet there were some words said about such an overt display of sexuality in many circles at the time, and I’d bet some “decency leagues” registered complaints about it. Be fun to go back through old archival papers and see how many column inches expressed dismay about the movie outside of places like NYC and LA.

  26. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States Says:

    Yeah, Juli, Kelly was VERY good. The obvious things to check out are Singing In The Rain, On The Town, and An American in Paris, but pretty much any singing/dancing movie you’ll like. Xanadu also shows him off as I recall… it was an effort to do for roller skating what Saturday Night Fever did for Disco, and failed at it… But I recall appreciating him playing his part quite well.

    He’s also a decent actor outside of his dancing, too.

    Inherit The Wind, about the Scopes Monkey Trial, is probably not historically all that accurate but is a good stage for him to show his chops.

  27. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States Says:

    I couldn’t find that quote, though it’s a pretty good one.

    Cyd had this to say:

    (on Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly) I can watch Astaire anytime. I don`t think he ever made a wrong move. He was a perfectionist. He would work on a few bars for hours until it was just the way he wanted it. Gene was the same way. They both wanted perfection, even though they were completely different personalities.

    (on Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly) Fred could never do the lifts Gene did and never wanted to. I`d say they were the two greatest dancing personalities who were ever on the screen. Each has a distinctive style. Each is a joy to work with. But it`s like comparing apples and oranges. They`re both delicious.

    Fred moved like glass. Physically it was easy to dance with him. It was not as demanding on me. I didn`t need the same vitality and strength.

    “When you’ve danced with Cyd Charisse, you stay danced with.” — Fred Astaire

  28. Fausta Says:

    Romantic expressive dance nowadays, in NYC,

    The dancers, Diego Benavidez & Natasha Agudelo, are married to each other. They’re the 2011 Argentine tango champions.

  29. Ymarsakar Says:

    I still see stuff like this from Japan. Which is probably why I’ve replaced rich Hollywood Democrat products with something of more substance.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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